Report finds NASA spacesuit development over budget, behind schedule, and inadequate


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Government in action! A NASA inspector general report has found that NASA’s program for developing new spacesuit is behind schedule, over budget, and unable to provide the necessary spacesuits needed for the agency’s future projects.

NASA’s spacewalking suits are in short supply, and a replacement is still years away despite the nearly $200 million spent on new technology, the space agency’s inspector general reported Wednesday. A next-generation suit for spacewalking astronauts is needed for future space travel, including trips to Mars. But a lack of a formal plan and destinations has complicated suit development, according to the report . At the same time, NASA has reduced funding for suit development, putting more priority instead on space habitats.

According to the report, NASA is dealing with a variety of design and health risks associated with the spacewalking suits used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The suits were developed more than 40 years ago and intended for 15 years.

More here. Essentially, the suits NASA presently uses on ISS don’t work well, there aren’t enough of them left, and they are difficult to maintain because they were designed for transport up and down on the space shuttle. At the same time NASA’s entire program to replace these suits has been mismanaged so badly that no replacement suits are anywhere on the horizon,even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

I predict that the next new spacesuit Americans use will be built in less than five years for a tenth the cost, by private companies.

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5 comments

  • LocalFluff

    Too bad, I thought they were making good progress, having seen enthusiastic presentations about the new space suits the last couple of years. The suite port is such a great idea, also for space station EVAs. But now they can maybe go second hand-shopping and ask the Russians to lend them some of their space suits?

    One spacesuit was destroyed when the Falcon9/Dragon crashed a couple of years ago. I remember its manufacturing cost was said to be about $75 million. That’s the cost of a Falcon 9! The spacesuit market needs to be commercialized. The best space tourism experience imaginable would be an EVA in LEO. There’s certainly a market for that.

  • LocalFluff

    This weeks FISO is all about spacesuits:
    http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/telecon/Norcross_4-26-17/

    It is a word-in-a-box-with-an-arrow-to-another-box-with-a-word-in-it kind of talk, so it’s for inspiration only.

  • PeterF

    I seriously doubt that any one who is a regular visitor to this website would fail to recognized the running joke whose punchline always includes “NASA”,”over budget”.”behind schedule”,”inadequate”, or any combination of those terms.

    I predict that we will see a private space suit within the next ten years that; Is easy to don, is easy to move around in, costs a fraction of the clunky 60s fashion style of suit, etc., etc., etc. If they were developed in the 70s they would probably still have bell bottoms and wide lapels, maybe even corduroy…

    I once heard that human skin can be an effective barrier between different low pressure environments. Perhaps a suit that is in effect a nylon body stocking to support the skin but not interfere with mobility and some type of head gear that protects the delicate orifices with a “chastity belt” that takes care of the other orifices? I would suspect that such a design would be right in Bigelow Space’s wheelhouse.

    One of the major problems with today’s “balloon suits” is the volumetric changes that fights every movement an astronaut makes leading to exhaustion just because you are wearing the suit.

  • jburn

    Or….. the Chinese may start producing a very low cost suit. After all, they are now launching a space station themselves.

  • LocalFluff

    Just a magic tan spray and a facial mask. They should put such cute baroque white angel wings on the back of the suits.

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